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Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete


Postby murphy999 » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:42 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg

Date walked: 19/03/2011

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 1650m

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Leaving the car at about 9am we headed into Leanachan Forest and immediately hit the snowline, the track being covered with a few inches of fine powdery snow. The slope was relentless and this coupled with the heat caused us to shed layers as we went, but despite this we were making good time and soon we began to see blue skies through the gaps in the canopy.

As the trees finally began to thin the north face of Ben Nevis crept into view, slowly at first then its bulk dominating as it claimed the horizon for its own. The summit plateau of the Ben was clearly visible against a backdrop of cold, clear blue, unbroken by cloud and crowned by spindrift. The black rock ridges of the northern face flanking the snow filled gullies presented a glimpse of the routes to be conquered and the arete itself bridged the expanse of sky between these two great mountains. This is why we came to the north face.
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Climbing a ladder over a small fence we made our way south following a path vaguely outlined beneath the snow, and after a time turned south east onto the western side of Carn Beag Dearg. The snow on these slopes deepened considerably as we climbed and all four of us continually sunk to knee depth, sapping our strength as we dragged our heavy thighs to the surface.

As we looked back towards the northern town of Fort William to take in the views the sound of rotors drifted above the wind and eventually through the cloud that hung in the glen the bright yellow hue of a mountain rescue helicopter rose towards us . We debated as to its purpose but having checked the avalanche forecast this morning the signs looked ominous, even more so as it moved quickly towards the north face of the Ben.
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Turning back to our hill we gained height quickly and the snow gradually became more consolidated allowing us to walk on the surface fairly easily, albeit with the occasional heavy foot puncturing the perfect, glistening surface. We learned to stay away from the heather around which the snow was less stable and tried to minimise the monotonous task of reaching the surface after sinking in up to the thigh.
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After some time we came to the col between Carn Beag Dearg and Carn Dearg Meadhonach and were greeted with the full splendour of the north face, every gully and buttress could be picked out in the spectacular conditions. Snow clung to every surface and the gullies were full but despite this splendour the eye was immediately drawn to the sight of a helicopter hovering above a clutch of climbers. We watched as two men were winched into the belly of the helicopter and it tipped its nose north towards Fort William. We were to learn on our return that two French climbers were swept 300m down the ice by an avalanche, each breaking both their legs in the process.
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It was here that we chose to don our crampons as the slopes were becoming increasingly ice covered and also moved inwards away from the heavily corniced ridge. The wind was howling and filling our steps with snow as quickly as we could move forward making any notion of breaking trail for the others redundant. By this time we were making extremely slow going as hunger and fatigue set in, it was all we could do to keep moving. To the east skiers rode the slopes of Aonach Mor, making a mockery of our attempt to scale the mountain. Finally as we crested the top of Carn Dearg Meadhonach the final slope of Carn Mor Dearg entered our view, still so distant. As with all mountains however perspective is relative and as we descended to the foot of the final climb it began to look altogether less threatening. We we were up it in minutes and finally the summit cairn was ours. We had reached 1220m feeling every step.
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Reaching the top of Carn Mor Dearg we gained our first full view of the arete we were to cross in order to gain the plateau of Ben Nevis. The ridge descended for about 150m and then formed into a narrow rocky ridge, covered in snow and ice. The arete curved towards the foot of the final slope which rose steeply to the highest point in the British Isles.

As we descended the exposure became threatening with steep drops on either side and strong, swirling winds. Despite the difficulties however the distance wasn't significant and as such we were optimistic of a safe traverse. We would skirt the high slopes of Coire Leis and make our way to the highest point in the UK.
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Moving along the ridge the rocks became increasingly ice covered, the spaces in between filled with fresh wind blown snow. Despite the difficulties our movement was less than strenuous, attention diverted as it was by the expanse of air separating our crampons and the snows of Coire Leis. Our hands were rarely required and the distraction of the great north face supplied a staggering backdrop.
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All too soon we reached the end of the ridge and were glad to make solid ground once more, a relief to plant a foot firmly after balancing on crampon points for much of the way. We had bridged the gap and without stopping we made our way slowly upwards towards the summit plateau, struggling on through a now bitter wind which had caused the deep snow to turn into thick ice. Picking various markers in the snow it was an intense struggle to reach each one but after what seemed like an endless grind we gained the summit and Scotland stretched before us.

In every direction the mountains were covered with a blanket of snow creating a white, jagged horizon framed against a backdrop of cloudless sky. The flat expanse of the summit stretched into the distance, brought to a sudden end by the sheer buttresses of the north face. This was the day of days.
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Last edited by murphy999 on Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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murphy999
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby MIKE LEVER » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:52 pm

fantastic report and pics. have yet to do the cmd arete, would love to do it on a perfect day like you had.
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby David.Ferguson » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:55 pm

I knew i should have been out today.Magic images.
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby andrewdoggett » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:58 pm

Absolutely stunning; I was clearly in the wrong place today!!
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby Stretch » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:59 pm

Fantastic! I knew that while I sat in my office today someone was having a brilliant day out.
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby rockhopper » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:11 pm

Cracking report and what a great read - kept me on tenterhooks right the way through :clap:
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby gammy leg walker » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:15 pm

Jeez that looks like you had a stuning day there murphy 999,the furthest I got was a 4 mile walk along The Forth and Clyde Canal 5 min from my house
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby malky_c » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:36 pm

Couldn't not click on this report with the heading it had...and well worth it too!

Was briefly kicking myself for missing such a great Saturday, but your mention of those unlucky French guys suggests this was earlier in the week.

Top report 8)
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby murphy999 » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:04 pm

Aha wrong date! The one thing I forgot to change!
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby pigeon » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:23 pm

Superb report and a great effort by you guys,hoping to get up there in the summer.Well done :D
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby PeteR » Sun Mar 20, 2011 12:15 am

Great report and great pictures. :D It looks like you had the perfect day, but pitty about the climbers though. CMD is planned for my Century mumro - hopefully later this year. Won't have the snow you did obviously, but if I get anything like the weather you did then I would be happy.
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby murphy999 » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:40 pm

Thanks guys, it was a truly great day, we were lucky to be on the mountain. Incredibly tiring though!
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby blueyed » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:03 pm

looks like a great day! i'm waiting for some longer days and less snow ;)
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby Milesy » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:40 pm

Brilliant photos! You look like you are going to rob the orient express though? :lol:
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Re: Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete

Postby kevsbald » Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:41 pm

Cracking set of pics. Replicated my day from 6 weeks ago but it took me a lot longer to grab the CMD summit so I bailed out halfway. Bien fait, as the French say.
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